CD Reviews

Monday 1st August

August 2, 2011

Though I find it increasingly hard to do so, I try and listen to every CD I am sent, and write about as many of them as I can. Quite often I just can’t bring myself to write about something I dislike a lot. Sometimes though, (like last night) I just don’t click with a CD, but the disc may not be that well known, and while it may not be to my taste, any exposure I can give it would possibly be of some benefit, so I write about it as politely (if negatively) as I can. One approach I have read from other reviewers is that if something unsolicited arrives, and it isn’t to the reviewer’s taste, well then so be it, its OK to pan it… Well, I kind of disagree. If a couple of hundred people a day visit this site then a little responsibility should be shown, and while it would be wrong to do anything other than make it clear that I don’t enjoy the release in question, searching for positive aspects to go alongside the negatives, simply because many people don’t share the same taste as me (thank goodness) is, in my opinion a more respectful and supportive way of sharing my opinion. It is, after all, only my opinion, which has no more value than any other.

It gets difficult then when a disc arrives that was released on a label that you have a lot of time for, was sent to you for free, and you know that the only thing that keeps you from connecting with it is a difference in taste. This is very much the case with Lin Flax, a new CDr issued on the Iorram label by the Scottish/Swedish, Sax/Acoustic guitar duo of Raymond MacDonald and David Stackenäs. The four pieces on this disc, recorded at separate evens and studio spaces between Glasgow and Edinburgh in 2009 are essentially acoustic improvisations that lean somehow towards a more traditional, jazz-inflected, full-on form of free improvisation. MacDonald’s sax is often relentlessly present, twisting and turning in concentric circularly breathed cycles, sounding not unlike Evan Parker at his most flamboyantly restless. Stackenäs plays differently here to on other CDs of his I have enjoyed, plucking and picking at what sounds like a steel stringed acoustic guitar, his twinkling little constellations almost keeping up with MacDonald’s sax flurries in persistence if not in volume. This then, sounds like much of the music I would hear when visiting some of the LMC organised concerts I attended in the mid to late nineties, angular, fast, dancing about, but essentially working only with the traditional sounds of the instrumentation and with pace and adrenalin seemingly replacing the space, restraint and contemplation I prefer to hear in improvisation today.

So listening to this disc a few times over recent days, it isn’t my cup of tea. Now, I recently overheard someone at a concert describe this site as a “minimalist blog” which really isn’t true, but certainly I do struggle to connect with music that flies past in a blur similar to Lin Flax. I also have little in common with the melodies of jazz, which occasionally show their influence on this CD also. These are of course however, matters of taste. The popularity of a musician like Evan Parker clearly shows he has far more to offer than any bass generalisations I can hope to offer, and the remarkable skill he shows is merely put to use on music that (sometimes) I struggle to connect with. Many others would enjoy it, just as they would enjoy Lin Flax. This isn’t a cop-out of a post though. I’m not afraid to wear my thoughts on my sleeve here and say that, for me at least, this disc doesn’t portray enough of a sense of considered structure for my liking, but this review does give me the opportunity to reiterate though that a negative review by myself should be used by others only as a guide when considering their own taste in relation to my own. This sounds obvious, and I am probably being very patronising here, but I think that from time to time it makes sense to remind myself as much as anyone else, that my thoughts are just one set of thoughts, that happen to be shared daily on a blog, nothing more.

On a tentatively related Scottish note, don’t miss this free download of a series of written pieces responding to the Wandelweiser seven hour event I attended in Glasgow early this year. Fine work.

Comment (1)

  • billphoria

    August 2, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Interesting review.I think MacDonald’s at his best,full tilt;’Delphinius & Lyra’ – duo CD with Gunter ‘Baby’ Sommer,and also like the Creative Sources’ disc / Tatsuya Nakatani / Peter Nicholson / Neil Davidson / Nick Fells – Aporias
    “Our intention was not to review the concert as such but to give a different kind of access to the event, to try to document listening and its effects rather than the sounds.”

    I think that was a slight mistake,if documenting the sounds was an option :-)

    It IS a matter of taste,and moods.I’ve listened to the Cathnor’ Pisaro/Stuart disc countless times,but usually ‘cleanse my palate’ with some Tammy Wynette,George Jones,James Brown,etc,before moving on to another ‘serious piece’….

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